Govt to investigate commercialising Joule

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pretoria - Cabinet has approved the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to evaluate the option of government investing in the commercialisation of the South African designed battery electric vehicle - Joule.

Africa's first locally developed zero-emission "Joule" was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show last year. Joule was also recently displayed at the National Climate Change Conference in Johannesburg.

A six-seater multi-purpose vehicle, Joule was designed by Optimal Energy, a privately-owned company based in Cape Town, in association with South African-born automotive designer, Keith Helfet.

Speaking after Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Pretoria on Wednesday, Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko said the vehicle would be the early adopter of the battery technology.

The committee would be made up of the Ministries of Science and Technology; National Treasury; Transport; Environmental Affairs and Tourism; Minerals and Energy and Trade and Industry.

The chassis of the Joule has been designed to accommodate two large-cell lithium ion battery packs which employ chemistry similar to that used in mobile phones and laptop computers.

Using a normal 220 Volt home outlet and Joule's onboard charger, it will take approximately seven hours to recharge Joule's battery for a 200km driving range, with two packs providing 400km in total.

Studies show that 99 percent of urban users drive less than 150km's a day. Optimal Energy recommends that only one battery pack is necessary to power Joule.

Electric cars only require about 20 percent of the energy that conventional cars require; meaning that the total emissions are much less.

With the global trend of electricity generation becoming more renewable and cleaner, total emissions caused by electric cars will continue to shrink.

Last year Gauteng expressed interest in placing the first fleet orders and is currently being evaluated for Joule's first assembly plant.